Saturday, September 11, 2004

The New Blue Collar?

Howdy all. I'm Mary McCoy, slogging and blogging through my last year of SLIS, yet still trying to get my head around what it means to be an information professional. Something that's been on my mind quite a bit lately is the nagging suspicion that, in its present state, higher education isn't quite equipped to prepare students for the information economy. Medicine? Law? Biochemistry? Higher education has those fields pretty well mapped out. Library education, however, seems to occupy this nebulous area somewhere in between academia and tech school, and is possibly not doing either side justice.

I almost felt guilty signing up for this class - kept thinking 'shouldn't you be learning how to build a database or something practical that you're equally uninterested in?' In the end, I was seduced by the reading list.

Other reasons I'm in this course? Low-skill white collar may be the new blue collar, and I'd like to know more about the implications of this (or if I'm even right about that idea at all). What happens when a large pool of young, college-educated workers earn less and have fewer benefits than the generations before them who may have entered the work force armed only with a high school diploma? Also, what happens as this new pool of workers ages? My father has had the same job since he was 24, and now, is just a couple years away from retiring young with full benefits. Can't think of a single soul my own age who's headed for such a life - not even the responsible, career/money-oriented ones. Is the class of 2005 doomed?

And with that cheery thought, enjoy your Saturday morning coffee.

Friday, September 10, 2004

Post one

I'm a SLIS graduate of 1999, who came to Librarianship via an academic track in Music Composition, research in American Music History, and an interest in Archives. I've been working for three and a half years at Morris Library, Southern Illinois University Carbondale, as a Special Formats Cataloger, which in that case meant Music, Maps and Serials. I also had responsibility for Music acquisitions. After several years at the State Historical Society of Wisconsin (its true name) as an LTE, I got to be painfully aware of what union membership would mean to me in terms of benefits and job security. What benefits you get as an LTE in Wisconsin stem directly from the unionization of professional staff--health insurance, contributions to Social Security and to ETF. So I was delighted to have the opportunity to join the Faculty Association (IEA/NEA) at SIUC, and served as Library Affairs departmental representative to the Association for three years. I look forward to sharing some of my experiences as a rep in class.

I'm taking the class to support a research interest in Libraries and Collective Bargaining which has emerged from my work with the SIUC Faculty Association. I gather from the syllabus and from chatting with Greg that the central theme of the course is the impact of the Information economy on working conditions and labor relations. For librarians, the immediate relevance is that the library "profession" has had ambiguous status historically. Claims of professionalism by and for librarians have helped to depress librarians' salaries and cut us off from rights enjoyed by other workers and by "real" professionals. As we chase that elusive professional status, the opportunity to recast ourselves as "information professionals" is dividing the profession into a library-drudge (pace Dorothea) proletariat and a wannabe elite of information specialists who see themselves as serving clients. Collective bargaining is a way out of this quagmire, if we can turn our access to and expertise with Information to our advantage and get a handle on our working conditions. The question I asked myself about why I got involved with a union was, "what do you do when they declare class warfare against you?"

Jeff Gibbens

Sunday, September 05, 2004

A Brief Introduction

I'm taking a break from reading The Great Gatsby for the course I am TAing for this semester (that's for you, Dorothea!), so here is a brief intro. for those of you I haven't met yet. I am working on a double degree - a MA in LIS and a PhD in Composition and Rhetoric (part of the English Department). I think that at SLIS I am somewhere towards the end of the first year, and I am just starting my third year in Comp/Rhet. This might qualify as an act of academic masochism - I haven't completely decided yet.

As for my interests, I am interested in the ways in which rhetoric is employed by groups and individuals involved with the production of information, in who has (to borrow from Bordieu) "linguistic capital," in the structures of power.

As a compositionist, I am also interested in how information or writing is constructed/presented online. How do we read and write in this medium? How do we construct arguments in this medium? Etc.

I'm also interested in the ways in which literacies function in these work environments. In particular, I am interested in exploring how certain literacies are valued or devalued.

Well, I need to return to Gatsby. I will see everyone Sept. 13.